By this time of year, most fans, including myself, have turned their attention to football and the fall. The NBA has figured out how to own the headlines when the sport isn’t even being played though. The last few summers have trended that way with big announcements from free agents, but I believe this year is the biggest ever in terms of off-season noise. Super teams have been a discussion for the last few years and deservedly so after Kevin Durant joined the Golden State Warriors following a 73-win season. I think that the league is set up to have one of the most compelling and unpredictable years ever next season.
This off-season, the league has shifted from super teams to dynamic duos. Several of the top players in the league changed teams through free-agency or trades. Anthony Davis demanded he be moved from New Orleans, and he ended up with LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The super team trend could have continued, and the balance of teams in the league was in the hands of NBA Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard. Leonard wanted to be in Los Angeles since he left the San Antonio Spurs a year ago in a trade to the Toronto Raptors. Leonard led Toronto to the NBA Championship this past year over the Warriors super team, so many thought there was a chance he would stay. He ended up in Los Angeles, but to the shock of almost everyone he chose the Los Angeles Clippers. In an even more shocking turn of events, Paul George silently demanded a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder, and instead of the Lakers forming a super team the Clippers formed Los Angeles’s second duo with Leonard and George. This move by Leonard, in my mind, saved the leagues competitive balance, and makes next year the most intriguing in NBA history.
In free-agency, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving swerved the prestigious New York Knicks for the other team in their town, the Brooklyn Nets. Durant may not play next year due to an achilles’ tear, but if he can come back toward the end of the year that puts them in the mix. Even though I am not sure that the dynamics of Durant and Irving in New York will work, there is no denying their talent.
D’Angelo Russell was traded to the Warriors in a sign and trade for Durant. Russell is an all star caliber player and with him, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson when he comes back from an ACL injury, the Warriors have a terrific trio.
Russell Westbrook was just traded for Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets after he demanded a trade in the aftermath of his teammate George being traded to the Clippers. He will join his old teammate in James Harden.
I think that this off-season set the NBA for a 2019-2020 season that is going wildly entertaining. Currently, there are eight teams with better than 20-1 odds to win the finals next year compared to last season when there were three. The Clippers are the favorites, and they should be, but the Lakers, Warriors, Rockets, Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz are all legitimate contenders in the Western Conference. In the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, the Celtics and Nets if Durant is healthy all have a chance to make a run.
I think that this is the most balance the league has ever been and it is partly due to Leonard picking the Clippers. Next season is going to be unpredictable. I will give the Clippers the edge as my favorite for now, but there are at least seven or eight teams that could take home a title if not more. It has been years since we could say that.